If you guessed a Republican governor from an unrelated state sending National Guard troops to another GOP-led state to “defend” the southern border was a political stunt, turns out, you were right! South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that she would be sending 50 National Guard troops to Texas to lend a hand with border security. Sending a few dozen additional troops will surely solve the problem and is in no way a craven and symbolic attention-grab. The move, of course, reeks of political gamesmanship as Republicans jostle to be the Trumpiest of all when it comes to immigration. Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced his state would build Trump’s wall itself, even though it doesn’t possess the resources, capacity, or likely the authority to do so. Even still, sensing the limelight shifting elsewhere, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’d chip in some of his state’s publicly funded officers to help. Not to be outdone, Noem got in on the game, announcing she too will deploy troops.
Adding to the symbolic inanity of South Dakota’s governor sending active National Guard troops is the ethical creepiness that the political lark won’t cost the state’s taxpayers anything because, Noem’s office says, it’s being funding by a GOP megadonor. You can’t make this stuff up. The governor’s office hasn’t disclosed the size of the “private donation” to mobilize U.S. military might, but said that the cost of the deployment was “paid to the state of South Dakota by Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, a Tennessee-based nonprofit that donates to various groups, including churches and the National Rifle Association, according to 2018 tax filings,” the Washington Post reports. “Willis Johnson has donated to GOP campaigns for decades, including at least $550,000 to Trump in 2019 and 2020, filings show.” Lest there be any confusion about misappropriating funds, Johnson told the Post his donation was absolutely meant to be used for the privatized border deployment.
It’s hard to imagine a more ethically problematic move than deploying reservists for political ends using a donor’s cash. It’s also hard to imagine a more perfect symbol of the current state of the GOP and the country more generally. The National Guard troops, since they are active duty, will be under Noem’s chain of command, and therefore technically allowed to partake in domestic law enforcement, something federally deployed guard members are barred from. The mission here is obviously so important, so clearly in the state’s public interest, that some rich guy from Tennessee is footing the bill.
If that all sounds like political chicanery with an eye on places like Iowa and New Hampshire rather than immigration policymaking … that’s because it is!